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Fading blues – the decline of the Tory tradition in Canada since the 1980s (Part Three)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted September 28, 2020

The fourth group within the Progressive Conservative party of the 1980s, were those who could be broadly defined as "small-c conservatives" of various stripes, or, more specifically, Tories concerned with community and nation, who truly represented the tory tradition of Canada. Patrick Boyer (the M.P. who from 1984 to1993 represented the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding in Toronto), was probably the most prominent representative of this tradition in the PC party. Patrick Boyer has also been a university professor and has authored several books about politics and constitutional law, especially focussing on his favourite topic of direct referenda. From the late-1980s to late-1990s, many of these persons had moved to support the Reform Party of Canada, which eventually became the Canadian Alliance (officially called the Canadian Reform-Conservative Alliance).

One should also mention John Gamble, who unfortunately became increasingly embittered at his treatment by the PC party in the 1980s, and eventually drifted into unqualified extremism. Brian Mulroney owed a huge political debt to Gamble for keeping the anti-Clark forces alive – thus contributing to Joe Clark’s weak showing in the leadership review and Mulroney’s subsequent win in the leadership convention of 1983. Despite the fact that Gamble was the PC party’s official candidate in the riding, the collusion of the PC and Liberal Parties led to his defeat in 1984 by the setting up of a supposedly “independent” candidate who “unexpectedly” won the riding. Another example of disdain for a more substantively conservative candidate was the way Peter Worthington (a co-founder and former editor of The Toronto Sun) was maneuvered out of the PC candidacy in the Toronto riding of Broadview-Greenwood in 1984, thus being forced into a difficult run as an independent. So, what were at that time two of Canada’s more substantive conservatives, were shut out of the huge, 211-seat, Mulroney landslide victory of 1984.

There had been in the large PC caucus of 1984 and 1988, an attempt to form a “small-c conservative” ginger-group, snidely characterized by the media as “the Dinosaur Club”. Given Mulroney’s contempt for “small-c conservatism”, the climate at the ginger-group meetings was likely to have been without much cheer.

The Conservative Party under Stephen Harper had carried the hopes of a large, centre-right and centre coalition. Its more salient (1) supporters included: social conservatives, neoconservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, purely fiscal conservatives, as well as some federalists and “soft sovereigntists” in Quebec, some disaffected right-wing Liberals and perhaps some socially conservative former NDP supporters. However, it would be of considerable importance to the future of Canada, if the voice of what could be called "true toryism" could somehow be heard within the diverse medley of the Conservative Party.

To be continued. ESR


[1] This term means here persons who believe in some kind of more-or-less coherent principles and are willing to carry out considerable endeavours on behalf of the Party that are not necessarily driven just by prospects of personal gain.

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.




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